Tower Poppy Removal Team

I was pleased as punch when I received notification that I had been allocated a shift as a volunteer on the Tower Poppy Removal Team.

Tower Poppy Removal1I had been so incredibly moved when I visited the Poppies in September.  The representation of all those who lost their lives during WW1 by a sea of vivid red ceramic poppies.

Each poppy being planted one by one to create a beautiful and temporary remembrance.  The Tower of London Poppies has become a ‘destination’ for so many visitors from overseas but also around the UK.  So many photographs being displayed on social media and in the press.  Now, as was intended to display the fragility and temporary nature of life, the exhibit is being carefully plucked from the earth one by one, dismantled, washed and packed up dispatch.

The role of volunteer was fun, a small fun team within a large volunteer group working around the moat.  Trying hard to not chip or break each poppy whilst removing the washers and stoppers that had held the flower in place so well.  Our little team removed poppies first and then changed duties to separate the washers, rods and stoppers.  Other teams were on cleaning duties and others packing the poppies into boxes.

Tower Poppy RemovalIt didn’t go unnoticed amongst our team of volunteers that our task was also incredibly moving once again.  I was acutely aware that with every poppy we were removing it represented someone loved and lost.  There was also the feeling that we were handling the ‘last remains’ of those people and that they were being dispatched to the loved ones left behind.

Truly an honour to have been part of such a moving and beautiful remembrance tribute.



Lovely old crackly vinyl

Indulge this old bird for a second, particularly any youngsters reading this post…. I need to talk about my love for vinyl.   To avoid any confusion, I mean vinyl records!!

Err whaaat?

You may have seen some in a museum.  They look much like uber sized drinks coasters with grooves on them.  Larger versions of CDs really but they have music on both sides.  You need a turntable to play them.  They work by you lifting the ‘arm’ and placing the ‘needle’ carefully onto the vinyl record.  Once done, without knocking the needle or player which may result in a screeching sound, the music will begin to play.  The best ones, for me, are the records that have become slightly crackly and clearly have signs of being overused and well-loved tunes.  They’re fragile.  You can’t play them in a car and to transport them was a nightmare.  Certainly no listening to them as you’re walking to work or on the tube.  Hehe that was where the Walkman came in, if you were lucky enough to be able to afford one you could listen to your ‘chart hits’ on a recorded cassette.

Vinyl comes me in three main sizes (or at least in my collection they did)….

IMG_7083Three record covers showing the sizes.IMG_7082The three vinyl record sizes amongst my collection.

So far so good?   Indulge me further…

I’ve finally opened up the couple of moving boxes that have been packed up since 1998 when I left for Australia.  They were stuffed with vinyl records.  I haven’t opened the boxes until now as I didn’t own a record player anymore but still I couldn’t bear to part with the vinyl.  There’s something so special about vinyl records.  Unlike most people I don’t remember what was my first record I bought or where – although I suspect it may well be in this collection somewhere.  I do however remember saving pennies to buy the latest music.  Venture into the record shop, spend hours searching it out, listening on headphones to endless other records I couldn’t afford and finally handing over my pocket money for one single record.  Leaving the shop carefully carrying my new purchase and eager for it not to be knocked or bent before I had the chance to play it.  My choice of record was probably influenced from my listening to the Sunday night charts show.  I’d often record the show onto a cassette tape.  It was a tough job.  On a Sunday night you’d be glued to the stereo with your finger on the pause button listening intently to the top 40.  Cleverly you’d pause the recording between records so as to avoid the chatter of the DJ making the perfect mixed tape to listen to all week.   I’m quite sure that hour or so was a blessing to parents around the country who got peace and quiet whilst we carefully listened to the chart show in our rooms.

What a total indulgence these past few weeks have been for me.  I’ve bought a record player that records to my computer.  Importantly I’ve been able to listen to each and every album in turn.  Most of them hold great memories for me.  Many of them make me cringe.  I can honestly say my collection is varied and eclectic.  I’ve loved it…. I’m not sure my neighbours have though??

IMG_7080 IMG_7081I also discovered a host of singles.

IMG_7084Again varied, cringeworthy and brilliant.

Amongst them one single that I remember playing over and over to annoy my big brother…

IMG_7087Yes the B side… My Brother!

One of the first singles I pulled out of the box when I first started this job was this one:

IMG_7085Couldn’t have been more perfectly timed as I discovered that I was playing it when Issy passed away.  Her favourite opera and one that we’d promised to see/hear in Milan in January but due to health issues didn’t make.

Crazily, I also discovered several flexidiscs which were presumably given away free with newspapers/magazine etc:

IMG_7086And even crazier was this flexidisc.  Issued by the Conservative and Unionist Central Office:

IMG_7088Oh yes… a flexidisc that was sent to all households in 1964 to help ‘swinging voters’ decide who to vote for in the election.

“Songs for Swinging Voters” [features on Side 1: John Citizen; Nationalisation Nightmare; and Four Jolly Labourmen. Side 2: One Man Band; Poor Old Jo; and John Citizen] a six-track flexidisc of anti-Labour singalongs issued by Conservative Central Office

If you want to listen to a couple of the tracks I’ve uploaded them to my Soundcloud – John Citizen and Nationalisation Nightmare.  Hmm I wonder if this technique was to be used again it might work… perhaps instead of a flexidisc they could send the songs to every itune account for free.

There has been a substantial amount of ‘cheese’ in my collection and I’ve loved relistening to them all.  I’ve recorded quite a few albums and singles so that I can now listen to them through my i-devices.  I’ve even recorded the entire Wind In the Willows story perfect for long car journeys.  I am so very much looking forward to listening to them over and over and over again, crackle and jumping and all.

As for the vinyl.  I think it may be time to deliver it to my big bro, together with the record player and recording device so that he can indulge in our past for a while too.

A novel way to celebrate 5 years since diagnosis

When Greig Trout, the author of 101 Things to do when you Survive, messaged me to let me know he’d nominated me to take part in a BBC documentary, we had no idea that the filming would take place today, my cancerversary.

I’ll be honest and say that I have been more than a little nervous about doing it at all and the idea of ‘putting myself out there’ for all to see on the tellybox has induced more than a few sleepless nights.  Greig had been asked to do the show and would, no doubt, have been brilliant.  But the lure of more travelling, proving there is life after not one but two cancer diagnosis, inspiring others and raising awareness was too great for him and he jumped on a plane to Broome in Australia instead!

I can’t explain too much about today’s filming as the BBC want, of course, to have an impact with the show when it’s aired in January.  My day started at 7.15AM when a taxi arrived to take me to the first filming location in the City of London.  Stupidly I wondered how I would recognise the team I was meeting… until I walked in to a coffee shop to see cameras and lights set up and waiting for my arrival!  (blonde moment).  Nervously I was interviewed on camera.   All the time worried about how I would look, whether I would do a good enough job and trying not to be emotional.

The next part of our day was crucial.  I was to conduct an ‘interview’ on camera.  I needed to be polite but to needle.  I needed to enquire but to listen.  I needed to ensure my questions would inform and that the answers received were useful.  I needed to be Robert Peston but hope that little old me was an OK substitute.

The final part of the day was about me and filmed at home.  ‘About me’ is never something I’ve been particularly comfortable with.  I’m usually taking the photos or choose to hide at the back of group pictures.  Unsurprising then that when asked by the BBC to find some holiday snaps of me, I had diffuculty locating ones with me in them!  Ironic to think I am spending the day being filmed!  I was interviewed on camera about my diagnosis and experience with having cancer.  Having been in control of my emotions all day, I wonder if I might seem emotionless on camera.   We also filmed me doing normal things at home, meeting a friend, juicing, writing this blog, looking at holiday photos etc.  All to set the scene about me in the documentary story and why the topic is so important to be aired.

BBC Crew(In my kitchen!)

A very long day (11 hrs) and I was exhausted and emotional by the time the crew had left.  Ironic in so many ways.  Not least that the filming was taking place 5 years on from when I heard that dreadful phrase “You have cancer”.  A milestone I marked with telling my story to camera.  Hopefully the film will achieve changes in an industry that takes advantage of those who are living with a long term condition.  Hopefully it will raise awareness of the issue and signpost those affected to the right place at an affordable price.  Hopefully it will also raise awareness to Phyllodes by the mention in the piece.  Hopefully this mention will mean that others diagnosed with this rare cancer will not feel alone and find others in the Phyllodes Support Group.  Hopefully I did the piece justice…

Let me know : Rip Off Britain being aired in January.

PS  Apologies about the ill-fitting jeans… my excuse – I’ve lost weight and got dressed in the early morning darkness!

Wolf Hall – Bring up the bodies

OK so I’ll confess to not particularly liking period drama.  I’m probably one of the only people on the planet who’s not seen any Downton Abbey episodes.  I don’t enjoy Shakespeare nor particularly understand why everyone bangs on about his work!  So I’m a philistine and I don’t care!  There, I’ve said it.

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So I felt a little duped into being at the Aldwych Theatre tonight for a performance of Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel.  A drama based on the life of Thomas Cromwell during the time of Henry VIII.  Oh joy I thought to myself when I realised what we were seeing!

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Handmade Fair

images-2I love making and creating things.  I may not be brilliant at it but I love it.  There’s something wonderful about taking something everyday and making it into something beautiful.  Or making something that’s colourful and creative to hang on a wall, in the garden or wear.  Gifts are so much more special when someone has made it for you, with you in mind.

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Tower of London Remembers : Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red


To mark one hundred years since the first full day of Britain’s involvement in the First World war, an incredibly impressive and striking art installation called ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red‘ has been installed (and continues to be installed) at the Tower of London.

I understand that it was the imagination of ceramic artist Paul Cummins who proposed the idea and with the assistance of stage designer Tom Piper, the project is coming to fruition.

888,246 ceramic poppies, each poppy representing a British military fatality during the war, will progressively fill the Tower’s famous moat over this Summer.


I’ve seen photographs and listened to commentary on the radio talking about the installation but truly until I arrived there on Wednesday evening I’d not realised the full extent of the impact.

The installation itself is stunning, rich red in colour, each poppy beautifully crafted and individual in it’s perfect form.  Yet together creating this image of blood pouring from the Tower into the Moat in such a striking and moving way.

IMG_6753IMG_6745IMG_6751IMG_6740 IMG_6738

We arrived shortly before the evening’s Roll of Honour was to be read.  As we stood looking down into the Moat we listened to the Yeoman Warder reading out a list names.  Each name and rank was read with care and respect.  The Yeoman looking up at the silent group of onlookers and pausing after each name.  At the end of tonight’s long list of names of soldiers who had died too young and lost their lives fighting for our Great Britain, an officer moved up to the ‘mound’ and played the Last Post.  Each note resonated around the Moat and almost clung to the Tower before drifting off into the evening’s last light as the sun went down.  Still and solemn silence from the large group of onlookers with most of us occasionally dabbing an eye.  An incredibly moving experience and one I shall remember for a very long time.


Since attending, I’ve now registered as a volunteer so that I can play a part in this installation but more importantly to honour the men and women who gave their lives in  World War I.


Poppies can also be purchased here and I understand will be dispatched after Christmas 2014.  The sale proceeds are going to support 6 UK service charities.

If are in London before the installation is dismantled carefully on 11 November 2014, you MUST go to see it.

3 day Raw Detox with Nosh

I’ve just completed a 3 day Raw Detox programme with a company called Nosh.  Great name for a company!

Another pre-prepared juicing programme which includes 18 smoothies, six ‘colon cleanse‘ sachets, three ‘superfood booster‘ sachets and a phone call with a nutritionist.

Once again, I used a site called LivingSocial to get a discount.  Reduced to £69 from their usual £159.  (The offer is still available as I write this)

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 23.46.17This programme appealed because of the variety of ingredients in the smoothies together with the addition of spirulina, chia and acai.

However soon after I placed my order I realised why Nosh is reviewed with such complimentary comments (I googled it before placing my order).  It’s not JUST a juice/smoothie programme but truly offers a service.

On placing my order I received an automated acknowledgment.  This was closely followed by another email that urged me to book my time slot for a phone consultation with a nutritionist at the end of my 3 days.

Then a couple of days before my delivery was due I received the below email.

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 15.05.58 What a wonderful way to prepare people for their detox.  Working with them to consider what lays ahead and coach them, utilising some simple email text, into the right frame of mind.

I then received this email the day before delivery.

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 15.05.11

My smoothies were delivered early Sunday evening.  Again I’ve got to applaud their delivery slot as let’s face it a Sunday evening delivery is a great time for people to be in and also to prepare for the week ahead.

Nosh DetoxAs I unpacked the bottles I noticed something wonderful on the labels.  The ingredients of each bottle also contained ‘Love’ ‘Joy’ ‘Bliss’ and ‘Happiness’.  What a fun touch.

Nosh Detox1Also in the box was one sheet of paper with all the instructions I needed for the three days.

NoshInstructionsHonestly, how easy is that to follow?   I have to confess that I like a schedule to follow.  I like it to have times to follow too.  Otherwise I find that I’m spending too long hovering around the fridge or in the kitchen and that may lead to temptation.  Also reminding me to drink water and hot drinks.  It probably sounds daft to need to be reminded but it helps.

On each day I received an email encouraging me.

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 15.06.58Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 15.07.08Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 15.07.25On my third day, I’d booked in for a chat with the nutritionist.  A very useful end to the programme which allowed me to ask questions about the programme, mention what I’d like to take forward and receive advice about why certain vegetables and fruits are good for juicing and also if there are any additions or supplements that might be good for me.

A final email the day after I completed the 3 days with suggestions of how to maintain the benefits from the detox and continue with this healthier approach.

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 00.08.50

Finally the usual questions:

Was I hungry during the cleanse?  Very rarely.  The smoothies were well balanced in their thickies and thinnies which meant that I wasn’t physically hungry.  Also being reminded to drink lots of water helped when my head (not my stomach) was saying it was time to eat.  So much easier to ignore or quieter when I’ve been drinking water or hot water with lemon juice.

Did I get congested?  A little on the first day or so.  However day 3 was definitely an elimination day… but not so bad that you worried about leaving the bathroom!

Would I do it again?  Yes but I’d definitely prefer with a discount or offer.  With the LivingSocial offer each smoothies was £3.83.  At full price the smoothies would be £8.83.  However you also get included the superfood booster supplements and cleanse sachets  and a telephone consultation with the nutritionist.

Do the smoothies last in the fridge?  Yes.

Would I recommend it?  Yes and even, if you can afford it, at the higher price.  It’s not cheap but it’s certainly a full service that you’re getting.

Overall, I’ve loved the Nosh Raw Detox 3-day smoothies.  I certainly feel lighter and it’s also evidently worked according to my scales too.  I enjoyed each of the smoothies, all tasted delicious.  The properties in the cleanse sachets and superfood booster supplements clearly work too.  Most of all the ‘package’ is a wonderful short burst to feeling energised, lighter, cleaner and healthier.